The houses of Edward Elgar
In all Edward Elgar lived in twenty one main residences, he was born in The Firs, Lower Broadheath and he spent his final years at Marl Bank, Worcester.
The Firs – 1857 to 1859
Elgar's parents had rented the Birthplace Cottage, at that time called The Firs, in 1856. Elgar's father William had an established music business in Worcester, some three miles from Broadheath and only spent weekends at the cottage. It seems that the cottage in the Worcestershire countryside was the choice of Elgar's mother Ann who, having some artistic talent and an affinity with nature preferred her children to grow up in rural surroundings.
10 High St, Worcester 1863 to 1879
In 1863 they moved to 10 High Street, to live above the shop that housed the family music business. It was here that Edward received his initial grounding in the various aspects of music making that were to substitute for a formal musical education. The shop has now been demolished but the Gifford Hotel carries a plaque to mark the approximate location of the shop.
Forli, Malvern Link – 1891 to 1899
Forli, off Alexandra Rd, Malvern Link, provided a stable environment for Elgar almost to the end of the century.
Here he completed The Black Knight, revised and published the Serenade for Strings, and composed Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands, The Light of Life, King Olaf, The Banner of St George, much of Caractacus and the Enigma Variations. An impressive list of works which reinforced his local reputation and expanded it into a national one.
Craeg Lea, Malvern – 1899 to 1904
In 1899, possibly motivated by Edward's increasing fame and a desire to reflect that status, the Elgars decided to quit Forli for something grander. They chose a house on the Wells Road about a mile south of the centre of Malvern. They named the house Craeg Lea, an anagram of C(arice), A(lice) and E(dward) Elgar.
The substantial house is set on a bank high above the Wells Road and Elgar chose a room on the upper floor for his study, giving him tremendous views across the Severn Valley and the Worcestershire countryside.
Within a few months the Elgars got wind of a proposed property development across the road from Craeg Lea which Edward feared would ruin the views from his study window.
It is clear to anyone visiting Craeg Lea today that Edward's fears were totally unfounded, the views remain spectacular but the Elgars did not wait to find out.
They started looking elsewhere and eventually settled on Plas Gwyn, a house on the eastern outskirts of Hereford.
Plas Gwyn – 1904 to 1912
The choice was a rather odd one, although a rather grand house on the edge of the city, it is set back from the road in enclosed grounds. With little by ways of views and for a now well established national personality with heavy commitments in London and the main provincial centres, Hereford is an even less convenient base than Malvern.
Perhaps therein lay the attraction, providing something of the isolation Edward needed to continue composing.
If so, it proved to be a notably successful choice, for here Elgar completed The Kingdom, arranged the Wand of Youth suites and composed both symphonies, the violin concerto, the Introduction and Allegro for Strings, two more Pomp and Circumstance Marches and a mass of smaller works.
Not since Forli had Elgar produced so many works from the same house.
Marl Bank, Worcester – 1929 to 1934
In December 1929, he bought Marl Bank, a large house of solid appearance set on a bank to the east of Worcester city centre with a good view of the cathedral.
With the passage of time and the acquisition of a more permanent home, Elgar appears to have regained the inspiration to compose, for the music began to flow again: the Severn Suite, a fifth Pomp and Circumstance March, the Nursery Suite together with a number of shorter salon pieces.
An opera - The Spanish Lady - and a Third Symphony were to follow but it was not to be for, in October 1933, Elgar was diagnosed as having terminal cancer.